¿Qué busca chele?

>> Thursday, July 12, 2007

It’s a given that there’s no Wal-Mart or Target for your convenient shopping needs in Nicaragua, but sometimes finding somewhat mundane things is an all-afternoon task even in the big cities (actually only in the big cities because you can’t really find much in the pueblos). Some things are easy. For example, if you need any pharmaceuticals, you just walk to the nearest farmacía, of which there are plenty, and buy to your heart's content just about anything you need.

For more every day things, however, it can sometimes be more of a scavenger hunt. Today I was looking for some jalapeños to make guacamole, but they aren’t all that popular because Nicaraguans have an unhealthy fear of all foods spicy so I had to walk around the market asking for about 10 minutes until I finally found some in pretty bad shape. To make it even more interesting, one of the supermarkets in town doesn’t even carry vegetables. At all. In the one that does have veggies, you can never really be sure that they’ll have what you need so you can still have time to go to the market before it shuts down for the day. (The reason you don't just go the market first is that the stuff there is a lot dirtier because it just sits out for flies and all kinds of other nastiness to get on it all day.)

Pulperías are another option for all kinds of stuff. There’s never really one set pulpería inventory—in the smaller towns it seems like they try to divide the basic goods between them, so if you need rice, sugar, and beans you’ll get to walk all around town. The pulperías just buy huge 50- or 100-pound sacks of their wares and you usually BYOS (bring your own storage) to buy a bag, a cup, a pound, or a tupperware container full of whatever you need. Other than that, pulperías are sort of like convenience stores--they usually have soda, club social (my favorite) or Ritz crackers, and a decent selection of galletas (cookies). Some of them are really obvious from a big Colgate or Coca-Cola insignia, but others just look like normal houses, and everyone just has to know that it's a store.

I'm a little sad that we'll be leaving our training towns; I'm just now figuring out which market vendors are really nice and helpful and ask ¿Qué busca chele? (whatcha lookin' for whitey?) and I know where I should go if I need to buy a bag of milk or cup of flour from my neighbor. The good news, through, is that there will be a brand new smelly market to explore and get lost in for the next two years, and eventually I can be the one to tell silly gringos where they have to go to buy jalepeños.

A farmacia:
The pulpería close to my house:
Holly's family's pulpería--a little bit of everything is a really accurate description:


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